Rays-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

Though David Price didn't win his last start, he continues to throw the ball well for the wild card-leading Tampa Bay Rays.

That's usually been the case when he pitches in Toronto.

In position to record a third straight complete game, Price looks to help the Rays improve their play against division opponents while personally trying to remain unbeaten against the underachieving Blue Jays on the road Friday night.

Price (3-5, 3.94 ERA) is 2-1 with a 1.08 ERA since missing almost two months with a triceps strain. He allowed two first-inning runs and finished with 87 pitches in last Friday's 2-1 loss to Houston when Jarred Cosart took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his major league debut.

"That's three (starts) in a row where he's been pretty much the same guy," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website.

Price is 6-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts at Rogers Centre, but his last against the Blue Jays (45-49) came at home, where he allowed four runs - two earned - in eight innings of a 5-4, 10-inning victory May 9.

Tampa Bay starters have posted a 1.91 ERA while recording a club-record 15 straight quality starts.

Winners in 14 of 16, the Rays are 2 1/2 games behind division-leading Boston. However, they are 20-24 against AL East opponents, including 5-5 versus Toronto.

"We have to do better against the East," said Maddon, whose team begins a 10-game trip that also stops at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. "If we come out of the break, hold our own, get this thing rolling again in the right direction, we can make a lot of noise in the second half."

For that to happen, star third baseman Evan Longoria likely needs to get untracked.

Dealing with plantar fasciitis, Longoria has hit .136 with a homer and five RBIs in his last 18 games. He hit .500 (14 for 28) with two home runs and 10 RBIs in his first seven against the Blue Jays, but went 1 for 8 with four strikeouts last month when the Rays took two of three at home.

Teammate James Loney is batting .324 this season versus Toronto, which is 7-13 since its franchise-tying 11-game winning streak.

Saddled with lofty expectations during the offseason, the Blue Jays are last in East - 11 1/2 games back and 8 1/2 out of the second wild-card spot.

"We know it's not going to be easy, because the division is so tough," shortstop Jose Reyes told the Blue Jays' official website. "But if we play consistent baseball and take it one game at a time, I think we'll be fine."

Reyes, who missed more than two months with an ankle injury, has batted .322 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 28 games.

All-Star Jose Bautista is batting .353 (12 for 34) with four home runs versus Price, but is 3 for 32 (.094) with none in his last eight contests.

Even with veterans R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson in the rotation, Toronto starters rank 29th with a 5.07 ERA.

Scheduled starter Esmil Rogers (3-4, 3.64) is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in his last four, but yielded one run and struck out seven over six innings of a 5-4 win at Cleveland on July 10.

The right-hander gave up four runs, including consecutive homers to Loney, Wil Myers and Sam Fuld in the second inning of a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on June 24.

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